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Dec 7: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

December 7, 2020

Pension expert Vettese warns that fixed-income retirement is challenging; stocks can be risky

In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, pension expert, actuary and financial writer Fred Vettese has a few words of caution for those of us who like to avoid the risks of the markets by finding safe harbour in the world of fixed income.

Vettese has written a number of books on the subject of retirement planning; Save with SPP reviewed his book The Essential Retirement Guide and found it packed with great advice.

He tells the Globe that due to the economic uncertainty the pandemic has brought, “if you have enough assets now and can live with a less risky portfolio to achieve your lifestyle, then do it.” His message, the article notes, is specifically directed at those age 65 plus.

Noting that interest rates are the lowest they’ve ever been, Vettese states in the article that “we can’t say that we’ll put some money in bonds and it will stabilize the overall portfolio and we’ll still get a pretty good return. COVID has pretty much squeezed out any kind of risk-free income.”

So, he warns, “if you’re going to keep risk-free investments in your portfolio like bonds and guaranteed investment certificates (GICs), then you’re going to have to find a rational way to actually draw down the principal over your lifetime. You can’t live off interest from bonds and GICs.”

This last statement is a bit of a gobsmacker for those of us who have ardently believed in a balanced, bond/equity view of retirement saving! But he’s right, of course – bond yields, as he points out in the article, will deliver negative returns over the long haul at today’s interest rates.

What’s a retirement saver to do?

If you’re looking to replace the income that bonds used to provide you with high-dividend stocks, be careful, Vettese advises.

“Implicit in holding dividend stocks is the idea that those stocks are not going to suffer capital losses, that they’re not going to go down 20 or 30 per cent. And what if these companies start struggling and can’t keep up their earnings and have to cut their dividends? There’s a lot of risk in dividend stocks, even if we haven’t seen that risk showing its teeth yet,” he states in the Globe article.

Vettese says it is a tough time for savers – especially young ones – to try and invest on their own. He suggests that they get professional advice, and says most people would be better off in a low-cost market-based exchange traded fund (ETF) than they would be if they picked their own stocks. He’s also a proponent of waiting until age 70 to start your government retirement benefits, such as the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, because you get quite a bit more income each month that way.

There’s a lot of great stuff to recap here. Fixed-income isn’t the solid pillar it once was, at least for now, and stocks paying high dividends can be risky. Advice with retirement saving is well worth it, and delaying your government benefits as long as you can will give you a bigger monthly payout.

There’s no question that investing all by yourself can be risky. You might be paying fees that are too high. You could pick a category that isn’t going up in value – or risky stocks that don’t pan out. If you’re not really ready to go it alone in the euchre hand of retirement investing, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan could be an option for you. SPP looks after the tricky investing part for you, at a very low cost, usually less than 100 basis points. Why not check out SPP today.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Keeping it simple makes your wealth plan elegant: JL Collins

September 3, 2020

No question about it, A Simple Plan to Wealth by JL Collins is ideally suited for those of us who “have better things to do with their precious time than think about money.”  This book grew out of a series of blog posts that were designed, in part, to enlighten the author’s kids, we are told. While a lot of the retirement saving messages are aimed at our friends south of the border, there is a lot of solid advice in these pages.

“Spend less than you earn – invest the surplus – avoid debt,” Collins begins. “Do simply this and you’ll wind up rich. Not just in money.” Collins adds that carrying debt “is as appealing as being covered with leeches and has much the same effect.”

Collins says even at age 13, he was a saver. “Watching my money grow was intoxicating.” And while savings first earmarked for a convertible ultimately were needed to pay for his college education, the important aspect of the story is having savings “in this fiscally insecure world.”

“To this day it stuns me to read about some middle-aged guy laid off from his job of 20 years and almost instantly broke. How does anyone let that happen? It is the result of failing to master money,” he writes.

Credit cards draw us in and then live in our pockets, he says. Early on, faced with a chance to put a $300 purchase on a credit card, he found that after paying the minimum he would owe 18 per cent on the balance of $290 that “they were hoping I’d let ride. What? Did these people think I was stupid,” he asks. But credit is not personal. “They think the same of all of us. And unfortunately, all too frequently they’re not wrong.”

Collins is a big proponent of stock investing, and notes that $12,000 invested in the U.S. S&P 500 in 1975 would be worth $1.07 million thirty years later. However, he says, most people lose money in the market because “we think we can time the market,” or “we believe we can pick individual stocks” or “winning mutual fund managers.”

Collins likes exchange-traded-funds (ETFs), specifically citing the Vanguard series. He also is quite aggressive in his personal portfolio mix – 75 per cent stocks, 20 per cent bonds, and five per cent cash, with stock and bond holdings all done via index ETFs. ETFs, he writes, have far lower fees than mutual funds, and there’s an argument for buying the entire index rather than trying to pick those stocks on it that are winners. He notes that Warren Buffett had similar advice for his shareholders – “put 10 per cent of cash in short-term government bonds and 90 per cent in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund.”

Collins is also a “four per cent rule” skeptic, saying it is safer to draw three per cent per year from your retirement savings in order to live well without running out of money. “Stray much further out than seven per cent and your future will include dining on dog food,” he warns.

The key message throughout this easy-to-digest book is to stick to the plan and live within your means. Nothing, he concludes, “is worth paying interest to own.”

Be sure to earmark retirement savings in your plan. As the book suggests, the longer your savings have to grow, the more they will. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has averaged growth of more than eight per cent annually since its inception in the 1980s, and the fee charged is currently about one per cent. Get your savings growing for you and consider checking out SPP today.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Leave your RRSP savings alone, and watch them grow, urges author Robert R. Brown

April 30, 2020

If a farmer brought 64 rabbits to a deserted island, and left them alone to multiply, 60 years later there would be an astonishing 10 billion rabbits living on the island.

That example is how Ajax author Robert R. Brown explains the need for all of us to save early in our RRSPs, and then leave the money alone to grow.

Brown’s book, Wealthing Like Rabbits, uses lots of great metaphors and examples to drive home key points about not only saving, but avoiding debt and overspending.

Retirement savings grow in importance as you age, he writes. Given that the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security deliver only a modest benefit, “it is better to be 65 years old with $750,000 saved than it is to be 65 years old with $750 saved.”

Canadians have two great options for retirement savings, “the RRSP – don’t pay tax now, grows tax-free inside, pay taxes later,” or the TFSA, “pay taxes now, grows tax-free inside, don’t pay tax later.” Either vehicle, he writes, “is an excellent way to save for your long-term future,” and ideally we should all contribute the maximum every year.

Yet, he writes, just as his beloved Maple Leafs “swear that next year they will do better,” Canadians all swear they will put more money away for retirement, yet don’t.

If you do save, explains Brown, pay attention to the cost of investing. Many mutual funds have high management expense ratios, or MERs, that “range from around two per cent to three per cent. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is,” he warns. It’s like the power of compound interest, but in reverse, Brown notes. Index funds and ETFs have far lower fees, allowing more of your money to grow, he points out.

Brown’s key takeaway with retirement saving is “start your RRSP early. Contribute to it regularly. Leave it alone.”

The book takes a look at the ins and outs of mortgages, and why it isn’t always the best idea to get the biggest house you possibly can. Watch out, he warns, when you go for a pre-approved mortgage at the bank – they may offer you an amount that is more than you want to afford. “You shouldn’t ask the bank to establish the amount you’ll be approved for. That needs to be your decision. After all, McDonald’s sells salads too. It’s up to you to order one,” he explains.

Credit cards are another way to pile up debt, he says. Not only are the posted interest rates high, “as much as 29.99 per cent,” but there are late payment fees, higher interest rates and extra fees for cash advances, annual fees just to have certain cards, and more. “Credit card companies are always looking for some sort of new and innovative way to jam you with a fee,” he advises. The 64 per cent of Canadians who pay off their credit cards in full each month enjoy an interest rate of zero, he writes – “think about that.”

He provides some great strategies for the 36 per cent of us who carry a balance on their cards, including leaving the cards at home, locking them up or freezing them to cut back on use, and cutting back on the overall number of cards.

Home equity lines of credit, which are easy to get, can backfire “if you have to sell your house during a soft market,” he warns.

Finally, Brown offers some sensible advice on spending – don’t eat out as often, and avoid alcohol when you’re out. Consider buying a used car over a brand new one. “If spending cuts alone won’t provide you with the cash flow you need to pay off your debt, you’re going to have to make more money,” he says. Get a raise, or get a little part-time job like dog walking, lawn mowing, or washing cars.

This is a great read – the analogies and stories help make the message much easier to understand. Once you’ve set the book down, you feel ready and energized to cure some of your worst financial habits.

If you are looking for a retirement savings vehicle that offers professional investing at a low MER, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP has a long track record of solid investment returns, and the fee is typically around one per cent. That means more of the money you contribute to SPP can be grown into future retirement income.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Book puts the wisdom of Buffett at your fingertips

October 24, 2019

We often run in to various thoughts and pronouncements by the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, when reading the papers, watching the news, or even scrolling through social media. The man, after all, is a financial genius and one of the richest people in the world.

A nice book by Robert L. Bloch, My Warren Buffett Bible, catalogues some of the great man’s thinking in a well-organized, easy-to-access way.  There are literally hundreds of bits of good advice tucked away in this book that will help even the most novice of investors.

“Rule number one,” Buffett is quoted as saying, is “never lose money. Rule number two – don’t forget rule number one.”

He suggests that investors “buy companies with strong histories of profitability and with a dominant business franchise.” In other words, leading companies that are making profits.

“When I buy a stock, I think of it in terms of buying a whole company, just as if I was buying the store down the street. If I were buying the store, I’d want to know all about it.” The same holds true, Buffett says, when buying shares in a well-known company.

As well, Buffett states, “it’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.” He also notes that “startups are not our game;” his company, Berkshire Hathaway, tends to buy companies that have been around for a long time. Its oldest holdings, the book reports, are American Express, Wells Fargo, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, all firms that are over a century old.

And he says he plans to increase his holdings in these types of companies. “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful,” he states in the book. “The definition of a great company is one that will be great for 25 or 30 years.”

He’s not one for making a lot of portfolio changes, either. “Inactivity strikes us as intelligent behaviour,” he notes, adding that “what the wise do in the beginning, fools do in the end.”

He is not, the book states, a big fan of bond investing. “Overwhelmingly, for people that can invest over time, equities are the best place to put their money. Bonds might be the worst place to put their money. They are paying very, very little, and they’re denominated in a currency that will decline in value.”

For those who don’t want to pick stocks, he recommends index funds (such as index ETFs). “If you invested in a very low-cost index fund – where you don’t put the money in at one time, but average in over 10 years – you’ll do better than 90 per cent of people who start investing at the same time,” he states in the book.

And for those who may think money is everything, the book closes with this quote from Buffett – “money to some extent sometimes lets you be in more interesting environments. But it can’t change how many people love you or how healthy you are,” he states in the book.

This is a fine little book that is fun and quick to read.  If you are running into problems running your own investments for retirement, it’s never a bad idea to get some help. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan will grow your savings for you, using expert investment advice at a very affordable rate. When it’s time to turn those savings into retirement income, SPP has an array of annuity options to provide you with steady lifetime income. You can transfer up to $10,000 each year from your existing RRSP to SPP; check them out today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Sep 23: Best from the blogosphere

September 23, 2019

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Canadians “confused” about TFSA savings – poll

A new poll carried out for Royal Bank of Canada has found that Canadians “don’t know how to use a TFSA to generate wealth.”

The research, conducted for RBC by Ipsos, is reported on by the Baystreet blog.

It finds that “43 per cent of Canadians are misinformed about the funds, believing TFSAs are for savings and not for growing investments,” Baystreet reports, adding that a further 42 per cent of those surveyed use their TFSAs only for savings and cash. Just 28 per cent of those surveyed “hold mutual funds” in their TFSAs, along with 19 per cent for stocks, seven per cent for exchange-traded-funds, and six per cent for fixed income, the blog notes.

In plainer terms, people don’t realize that you can hold all the same types of investments – stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds – in either a TFSA or an RRSP.

Yet, despite the fact that they tend to hold mostly cash in their TFSAs, the tax-free funds are more popular than RRSPs – 57 per cent of those surveyed said they had a TFSA, with only 52 per cent saying they have an RRSP, Baystreet notes.

The TFSA is a different savings vehicle from a registered savings vehicle, such as an RRSP. When you put money into a TFSA, there is no tax benefit for the deposit. However, the money in the TFSA grows tax-free, and there is no tax charged when you take money out.

With RRSPs (and registered pension plans) the contributions you make are tax-deductible, and the money grows tax-free while it is in the RRSP. However, taxes do apply when you take money out of the plan to use it as income.

While TFSAs are relatively new, some financial experts have suggested they might be well-suited for use as a retirement savings vehicle, reports Benefits Canada.

“While RRSPs have the advantage of deferring tax payments into the future, which TFSAs don’t do, the deferral may not be as important to low-income seniors, especially those who want to avoid clawbacks or maintain their eligibility for government benefits, like the GIS, after they retire,” explains the article.

A lower-income earner “might find it more advantageous to maximize their TFSA contributions, which is currently $6,000 annually and indexed to inflation going forward. Unlike funds withdrawn from RRSPs, funds withdrawn from TFSAs — including the investment growth component — aren’t taxable, and contribution room after withdrawals can be restored,” Benefits Canada reports. The article also talks about employers offering group TFSAs as well as group RRSPs.

Those taking money out of a RRIF might want to put the proceeds – minus the taxes they must pay – into a TFSA, where it be re-invested tax-free and where income from it is not taxable.

A key takeaway for all this is that you need to think about putting money away for retirement while you are working. The concept of paying yourself first is a good one, and one you will understand much better when you’re no longer showing up at the office and are depending on workplace pensions, government retirement programs, and personal savings for your income. No amount is too little. If you are just setting out on your savings journey, an excellent starting point is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Be sure to check them out today!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jul 15: Best from the blogosphere

July 15, 2019

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Women have to plan for a longer retirement

What works for a man may not work for a woman, and that sentiment is true when it comes to retirement planning.

According to the Young and Thrifty blog, women need “to know how to save more than men.”

They need to save more than the conventional 10 per cent of salary, the post notes, or else they could risk not having enough money in retirement. “Advice given to women about how much to save for retirement may be so far off base that, according to the Broadbent Institute, 28 per cent of senior women are currently living in poverty in Canada,” the article notes.

The article notes that as a starting point, women earn less than men, about 87 cents for every dollar earned by a man. That means less to save for retirement, the blog notes.

Secondly, women “tend to invest more conservatively than men,” the article advises. Women, the article notes, tend to shy away from riskier market investments in favour of GICs and high-interest savings accounts. “While these can be great short-term strategies, these investments offer a lower return, stunting the growth of the money over the long term,” the blog reports.

So the problem is that women “are earning less, saving less, and generally choosing investment strategies that yield less,” the article notes. “But because women generally live longer than men, they need to squirrel away more money in their nest egg.”

The article notes that women tend to live four years longer than men, meaning a more expensive retirement. “Four years longer doesn’t seem that long, but if you assume a retirement age of 65, that’s 28 per cent more years spent in retirement,” the article warns.

A final factor – women tend to leave the workforce to raise children, meaning they don’t have as long a career or as many opportunities to save, the article says.

What to do?

The article advises women to consider sharing some of their parental leave time with their spouses, so that they aren’t off work as much. If you are off on a leave, a spouse can open a spousal RRSP to ensure that retirement savings continues while you are caring for a child. The article urges “more aggressive investments” by women, including the use of exchange-traded funds or ETFs, so that you are getting more benefit from the stock market.

And finally, the article says the savings target for women should be 18 per cent of income, as opposed to 10 per cent for men.

Interestingly, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan was invented with women in mind. The SPP started out as a way for busy women and moms to have their own way to save. The SPP offers professional investing at a very low cost, is scaleable (you can put more in when you make more, and less in when you make less) and very importantly, offers a simple way to turn those savings into reliable monthly lifetime income when you leave the workforce.

It’s an ideal tool for women who want to upgrade their retirement savings – check them out today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

What the heck is robo-investing and why is it popular?

September 20, 2018

For most people, investing means a trip to the bank or a broker, a “know your client” interview, and then a portfolio design, often featuring stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Those with smaller amounts of money to invest are often encouraged to start off with mutual funds and branch out later.

There’s a relatively new kid on the block called robo-investing that does things a little differently, so Save with SPP decided to try and understand the principles behind it.

First, this is a robo-service, reports a Global News article. So instead of meeting someone, you visit a website and sign up. “When you sign up with a robo adviser, you usually have to answer an online questionnaire about things like your financial goals and how nervous you get when the stock market goes down.”

Next, the article notes, the robo-firm will “invest your funds in low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) based on your personal profile and risk tolerance.” Because an ETF approach is used, fees are usually low, around 0.5 per cent versus the 1-2 per cent charged “for traditional investment advice,” the article reports.

Over time having a low-fee investment vehicle can be important. Two per cent doesn’t sound like much, but when charged to your account for 25 or 30 years, it can really eat into your investment returns, leaving you with less to live on in retirement.

The up side to robo-investing, the article says, is the low cost “set it and forget it” approach. The robo-firm reacts to market changes based on your preferences, rebalancing your portfolio when markets surge. This not only saves you time and trouble, the article notes, but it is automatic – great if you are a procrastinator.

The down side? The fees are low, sure, but there are no management fees if you buy stocks and bonds in your self-directed portfolio. There are standalone ETFs that rebalance themselves, the article notes. Advice from the robo-adviser is somewhat limited, the article says, but it concludes that the option is an attractive one for younger investors who are building their savings.

Save with SPP likes any and all forms of savings vehicles. And SPP itself is also worth a look when discussing retirement savings options. The SPP Balanced Fund has posted some impressive numbers since its inception in the 1980s, and SPP fees are on the low side – from 1992 to 2017 they averaged less than 1 per cent per year.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jun 25: Best from the blogosphere

June 25, 2018

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

1,000 boomers a day are turning 65 and gearing up for retirement
The crowd of people punching the clock at work for the last time is growing, writes Jim Yih, author of the Retire Happy blog. He notes that 7 million Canucks will be retiring in the next decade.

“We hear too many doom and gloom scenarios about what retirement holds from so many sources,” writes Yih. Instead, he offers some key retirement readiness tips from those who are already over the wall.

First, he says your health and fitness should be a priority. “Your health is the basement you build on, so it needs to be as solid as possible,” he advises.

Next, be prepared for retirement, he writes. Know your sources of income, be prepared for relationship and psychological impacts of not working, think about working part time and generally “educate yourself to avoid retirement shock,” Yih advises.

Where possible, Yih states, you should avoid retiring with debt. That’s not easy, he writes, given that about 59 per cent of us are indeed in debt at retirement age. But debt in retirement can be a black hole that can lead to “a downward spiral” in income, he warns.

His last advice is about retirement savings – “start saving earlier, and save more,” he writes.

It’s a great blog to check out.

If you are thinking about retirement savings, another great resource is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Visit their site and find out how you too can make retirement savings easy and automatic.

Blog focuses on the ins and outs of investing
One of our Save With SPP readers suggested we take a look at the Stocktrades blog — and we thank our reader for the suggestion.

Investing is not for the faint of heart. The blog helps do-it-yourself investors through the often complicated maze of terms and tactics. There’s a lot of helpful information on this blog and if you are into picking your own stocks, bonds, ETFs and the like, this will be a helpful resource.

It’s certainly worth reading, so we again thank our reader for the tip.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Group vs Individual RESPs: What’s the difference ?

February 15, 2018

The “holy trinity” of tax-assisted savings plans available to Canadians are TFSAs, RRSPs and RESPs. RESPs (Registered Educational Savings Plans) are primarily designed to help families to save for post-secondary education.

Each year, on every dollar up to $2,500 (to a life time maximum of $50,000) that you contributed to an RESP for a child’s education after high school, a basic amount of the Canada Education Savings Grant of 20% may be provided. Depending on the child’s family income, he/she could also qualify for an additional amount of CESG on the first $500 deposited, which means $100 more if the 2017 net family income was $45,916 or less and up to $50 if the 2017 net family income was between $45,916 and $91,831.

In total, the CESG could add up to $600 on $2,500 saved in a year. However, there is a lifetime CESG limit of $7,200. This includes both the basic and additional CESG. Lower income families may also be eligible for the Canada Learning Bond (CLB) that could amount to an additional $2,000 over the life of the plan.

Contributions to RESPs are not tax deductible, but the money in the account accumulates tax-free. Contributions can be withdrawn without tax consequences and when your child enrolls in a university or college program, educational assistance payments made up of the investment earnings and government grant money in the RESP are taxable in the hands of the student, generally at a very low rate.

When our children were young, we purchased Group RESPs for them and their grandparents also purchased additional units. I was so impressed with the program that I even took a year before transitioning from family law to pension law and sold RESPs.

Each child collected about $8,000 from the plan over four years of university, which helped them to graduate debt free. Fortunately, both my daughter and my son took four straight years of university education so there was no problem collecting the maximum amounts available to them minus administrative fees.

However, I’ve come to realize the potential downside of Group RESPs so we started contributing $200/month to a self-administered plan with CIBC Investor’s Edge for our granddaughter soon after she was born. She is now 5 ½ and as I write this, there is already $22,000 in the account.

Our decision to self-administer Daphne’s RESP was influenced in part by what I learned from other personal finance bloggers about the potential downside of group plans.

Robb Engen notes that group plans tend to have strict contribution and withdrawal schedules, meaning that if your plans change – a big possibility over 18 plus years – you could forfeit your enrollment fee or affect how much money your child can withdraw when he/she needs it for school.

With a Group RESP, contributions, government grants and investment earning for children the same age as yours are pooled and the amount minus fees is divided among the total number of students who are in school that year. Typically the pool is invested in very low risk GICs and bonds.

In contrast, there are no fees in our self-administered plan other than $6.95 when we make a trade. The funds are invested in a balanced portfolio of three low fee ETFs. We can easily monitor online how the portfolio is growing and as Daphne gets closer to university age we can shift to a more cautious approach.

Macleans recently reported that the total annual average cost of post-secondary education in Canada for a student living off-campus at a Canadian university is $19,498.75 and it will be much higher by the time your child or grandchild is ready to go off to college. So learn as much as you can about RESPs, get your child a social insurance number, set up a program and start saving.

However, as Engen suggests before you choose a group or individual RESP provider make sure you read the fine print and ask about:

  • Fees for opening an RESP;
  • Fees for withdrawing money from a RESP;
  • Fees for managing the RESP;
  • Fees for services and commissions;
  • What happens if you can’t make regular payments;
  • What happens if your child doesn’t continue his or her education; and
  • If you have to close the account early, do you have to pay fees and penalties; do you get back the money you contributed; do you lose interest and can you transfer the money to another RESP or different account type.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

2018 New Year’s Resolutions: Expert Promises

January 4, 2018

Well it’s that time again. We have a bright shiny New Year ahead of us and an opportunity to set goals and resolutions to make it the best possible year ever. Whether you are just starting out in your career, you are close to retirement or you have been retired for some time, it is helpful to think about what you want to accomplish and how you are going to meet these objectives.

My resolutions are to make more time to appreciate and enjoy every day as I ease into retirement. I also want to take more risks and develop new interests. Two of the retirement projects I have already embarked on are joining a community choir and serving on the board; and, taking courses in the Life Institute at Ryerson University. After all, as one of my good friends recently reminded me, most people do not run out of money, but they do run out of time!

Here in alphabetical order, are resolutions shared with me by eight blogger/writers who have either been interviewed for savewithspp.com or featured in our weekly Best from the Blogosphere plus two Saskatchewan Pension Plan team members.

  1. Doris Belland has a blog on her website Your Financial Launchpad . She is also the author of Protect Your Purse which includes lessons for women about how to avoid financial messes, stop emotional bankruptcies and take charge of their money. Belland has two resolutions for 2018. She explains:
  • I’m a voracious reader of finance books, but because of the sheer number that interest me, I go through them quickly. In 2018, I plan to slow down and implement more of the good ideas.
  • I will also reinforce good habits: monthly date nights with my husband to review our finances (with wine!), and weekly time-outs to review goals/results and pivot as needed. Habits are critical to success.
  1. Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances and blogs at Money We Have. He says, “My goal is to work less in 2018. I know this doesn’t sound like a resolution but over the last few years I’ve been working some insane hours and it’s time to cut back. The money has been great, but spending time with my family is more important.”
  1. Chris Enns who blogs at From Rags to Reasonable describes himself as an “opera-singing-financial-planning-farmboy.” In 2017 he struggled with balance. “Splitting my time (and money) between a growing financial planning practice and an opera career (not to mention all the other life stuff) can prove a little tricky,” he says. In 2018 he is hoping to really focus on efficiency. “How do I do what I do but better? How do I use my time and money in best possible way to maximize impact, enjoyment and sanity?”
  1. Lorne Marr is Director of Business Development at LSM Insurance. Marr has both financial and personal fitness goals. “I plan to max out my TFSAs, RRSPs and RESPs and review my investment mix every few days in the New Year,” he notes. “I also intend to get more sleep, workout 20 times in a month with a workout intensity of 8.5 out of 10 or higher and take two family vacations.”
  1. Avery Mrack is an Administrative Assistant at SPP. She and her husband both work full time and their boys are very busy in sports which means they often eat “on the run” or end up making something quick and eating on the couch.  “One of our resolutions for next year is to make at least one really good homemade dinner a week and ensure that every one must turn off their electronic devices and sit down to eat at the table together,” says Mrack.
  1. Stephen Neiszner is a Network Technician at SPP and he writes the monthly members’ bulletin. He is also a member of the executive board of Special Olympics (Kindersley and district). Neiszner’s New Year’s financial goals are to stop spending so much on nothing, to grow his savings account, and to help out more community charities and service groups by donating or volunteering. He would also like to put some extra money away for household expenses such as renovations and repairs.
  1. Kyle Prevost teaches high school business classes and blogs at Young and Thrifty. Prevost is not a big believer in making resolutions on January 1. He prefers to continuously adapt his goals throughout the year to live a healthier life, embrace professional development and save more. “If I had to pick a singular focus for 2018, I think my side business really stands out as an area for potential growth. The online world is full of opportunities and I need to find the right ones,” he says.
  1. Janine Rogan is a financial educator, CPA and blogger. Her two financial New Year’s resolutions are to rebalance her portfolio and digitize more of it. “My life is so hectic that I’m feeling that automating as much as I can will be helpful,” she says. “In addition, I’d like to increase the amount I’m giving back monetarily. I donate a lot of my time so I feel like it’s time to increase my charitable giving.”
  1. Ed Rempel is a CFP professional and a financial blogger at Unconventional Wisdom. He says on a personal finance level, his resolution are boring as he has been following a plan for years and is on track for all of his goals. His only goal is to invest the amount required by the plan. Professionally, he says, “I want 2018 be the year I hire a financial planner with the potential to be a future partner for my planning practice. I have hired a couple over the years, but not yet found the right person with the right fit and long-term vision.”
  1. Actuary Promod Sharma’s resolutions cover off five areas. He says:
  • For health, I’ll continue using the 7 Minute Workout app from Simple Design.
  • For wealth, I’ll start using a robo advisor (WealthBar). I’m not ready for ETFs.
  • For learning, I’ll get my Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA) designation to collaborate better in teams.
  • For sharing, I’ll make more videos.
  • For giving, I’ll continue volunteering.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.